Justin Bieber could make Tim Hortons relevant again


After 57 years in business, Tim Hortons is giving people what they didn’t know they wanted: Timbiebs. Starting November 29, coffee lovers across Canada and the United States can order three flavors of Justin Bieber-designed Timbits: White Chocolate Fondant, Sour Cream Chocolate Chips, and Birthday Cake Waffle. They can also get their hands on limited edition Bieber x Tim Hortons merchandise, including a Timbiebs bum bag, tote, and beanie.

This is not Tim’s first attempt to attract younger customers. Since the once-beloved brand was bought by investment firm 3G Capital in 2014 – which also operates Popeyes, Burger King and now Firehouse Subs under Restaurant Brands International – it has been working to find ways to please. to a more modern coffee drinker, often at the expense of alienation from existing customers.

In recent years, the company has also angered franchisees for allegedly abusing revenue from advertising funds, struggling to expand into the United States and, perhaps most concerning for a business public, its annual revenue growth has been lukewarm. In other words, Tim Hortons is losing its grip on Canada’s beloved coffee.

Now, with the Bieber partnership, the channel seems to be doing everything it can to regain its popularity. While it’s still too early to know whether Bieber’s approval will attract new customers, widespread media coverage has already been largely positive. Searching for #Timbiebs on Twitter brings up endless tweets, and Bieber’s own Instagram has thousands of comments praising the collaboration. As a fellow Canadian and Bachelor star Kaitlyn Bristowe commented: We are “sold”.

Marketing missteps

There are a lot of issues at stake for this partnership. A 2018 Angus Reid poll found that one in three Tim Hortons customers said their opinion of the chain was worsening – there was speculation online that the taste of coffee has changed – while an Ipsos poll Reid from 2020 revealed that the company, which was once also synonymous with Canada as hockey and snow, is less relevant today than it once was. More generally, consumers have criticized the company for straying from what it has always done best: selling double doubles, chocolate glazed donuts and a pack of 12 Timbits.

In 2019, Tim Horton’s added Beyond Meat to its menu, offering two breakfast sandwiches and a wrap using the meat alternative. While Mike Hancock, the company’s chief operating officer, said in a press release that Canadians were “hungry” to try the new menu items, that assessment seemed overly optimistic. The channel stopped offering Beyond Meat just a few months after deployment.

That same year, Tim Hortons opened an “Innovation Café” in Toronto’s financial district, which it said was “a modern take on the Tim Hortons brand and a unique space to test new menu items and technology initiatives. “. There, downtown hipsters and well-heeled bankers could sit in a stylish bar and have a cup of nitro-infused cold brew or 12 “Dream Donuts,” like the creme brulee donut, the Donut filled with dulce de leche and blueberry hibiscus Donut. It closed in April 2021, which the company attributed to the pandemic.

In February 2020, in perhaps its worst offense, the company dared to modify its Roll Up the Rim competition – a marketing effort that has in fact been a huge success year after year since its introduction in 1986, when company co-founder Ron Joyce still oversaw the business. In an effort to appeal to sustainability-conscious customers, Tims turned the program into a digital competition. What was once a simple ritual has turned into a complicated program of bonus games and in-app adventures. Customers weren’t happy, and Joanne McNeish, professor of marketing at Ryerson University, called the move “foolish”.

Bet on Bieber

David Soberman, professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management, believes this partnership could produce well-deserved success for Tim Hortons. “Justin Bieber is obviously one of the best-known Canadians in the world,” he says, indicating that Tims may have learned from his several past failures and is now looking at the classic Canadiana, rather than trying to compete. with more modern eateries and eateries. global channels.

Timbiebs merchandise, which features the old-fashioned Tim Hortons logo, is another sign the company is stepping away from new trends and returning to its roots.

Soberman also believes there is authenticity in the partnership, another factor that would bode well for its success. “I doubt Bieber would have lent his name if he didn’t like Timbits,” he said. “I suspect they’re probably good – he should have eaten them. ”

He thinks choosing a young celebrity like Bieber is smart. “Every time you run a restaurant chain, if you can successfully attract young people to your restaurants, they could become customers for decades,” says Soberman. However, he notes that the company will also need to be careful about appealing to its traditional customer base of mostly older Canadians and workers. He wonders how many young people are Timbit buyers, saying that the people in this demo tend to be more health conscious, which can make the old-fashioned sweet treats less appealing, regardless of the approval of the people. celebrities.

Well-made endorsements

Celebrity mentions can be hit or miss, but other fast food chains have found success with musicians. In 2005, Destiny’s Child, which was one of the biggest bands of the time, helped put McDonald’s chicken salad in the spotlight, while the Travis Scott Meal, a menu item designed by the rapper Travis Scott in 2020, was apparently so successful that restaurants were selling ingredients.

And while this may be Tims’ first major foray into the music business, in October Restaurant Brands International hired Megan Thee Stallion to develop “Hottie Sauce,” a hot new sauce for its chains. Popeyes. The company also sells custom products and Megan Thee Stallion even becomes a franchisee of five new locations.

Can the Biebs help overturn the company’s stagnant fortunes and attract the next generation of Tims fans? Only time and taste will tell, but at least the new Timbits have a celebrity stamp of approval.

“Tims has never really gotten a promotion with a popular music personality before,” Soberman says, “so at least they can learn from the experience.”

About Glenda Wait

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